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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Articles tagged: UCLA Basketball

Mick Cronin says UCLA lacks toughness after falling below .500 with Stanford loss

Mick Cronin

Mick Cronin’s first season is Westwood is not going according to plan.

After Wednesday’s 74-59 loss to the rival Stanford Cardinals dropped them below .500 on the season, the UCLA head coach tore into his players.

“When the going gets tough, we don’t have a lot of guys who get going,” said Cronin, per Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times. “When the going gets tough, we have some guys who will fold. We lack toughness.

“As the game goes on, our softness shows up,” Cronin continued. “Our selfishness at times is evident and it’s been probably to people who have watched us all year on the offensive end, some of the shots we take and the turnovers because certain guys don’t want to pass the basketball.”

The loss to Stanford marked the Bruins’ third straight defeat and fifth in their last six games, sinking them to an unsightly 8-9 on the year. With a bunch of low-ceiling underclassmen who are being thrust into headlining roles and no go-to scorer to rely on, the team seems to be in over their heads most nights.

UCLA probably won’t be making the NCAA Tournament for one reason or another, and Cronin thinks you can give them an “F” for effort right now too.

UCLA in danger of NCAA Tournament ban over APR scores

UCLA Bruins logo

The UCLA men’s basketball program is desperate to get back on track under new head coach Mick Cronin, but that will be awfully difficult to do if the team is banned from the NCAA Tournament in future seasons.

According to Jon Wilner of the Bay Area News Group, the latest Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores that were released by the NCAA last week show that UCLA is dangerously close to being below the 930-point threshold, which would trigger a postseason ban. UCLA’s latest score was the worst in the Pac-12 at 933. If the multi-year score that is released next spring dips below 930, the Bruins would be ruled ineligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2021.

“Unless the postseason ban is waived or avoided through the use of a filter, teams that don’t achieve the 930 will not participate in the postseason from the first time their multi-year APR falls below that benchmark,” NCAA spokesperson Michelle Brutlag Hosick told Wilner in an email.

The score the NCAA uses to determine postseason eligibility is a four-year average, and UCLA had scores of 942, 907, 977 and 905 in its last four seasons under former coach Steve Alford. That means the 942 will be removed from the calculation in the spring, so the Bruins need a score above 928 to avoid dipping below 930 for their average.

APR is calculated by measuring whether athletes remain in school and in good academic standing. Undergraduate transfers and players leaving early for the NFL or NBA draft lower the score.

UCLA already botched its coaching search and seemingly settled for Cronin, but he’s an experienced coach who enjoyed success at Cincinnati. If the Bruins can’t get their APR score up, it won’t matter how good of a coach Cronin is.

Report: UCLA offered to double Jay Wright’s salary

Jay Wright

UCLA tried hard to bring in as big of a coaching name as possible to replace Steve Alford, even doing what they could to dangle mega money in front of top candidates. In fact, one report says they offered to double the salary for Jay Wright to get him to leave Villanova, but that didn’t help.

The Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch on Monday published a comprehensive look at UCLA’s search for a new head basketball coach. According to the article, the Bruins went after some of the most successful coaches in recent college basketball history, like John Calipari, Brad Stevens, Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo, Mark Few and Tony Bennett. Wright, who has won two championships in the last four years, was among their targets.

UCLA senior associate athletic director Josh Rebholz ran most of the hiring process and kept big donors updated on the progress. In one update, he told them through text message that they had made a big offer to Wright that mattered little.

“We would have loved for Jay Wright to walk out on the floor, but even when we offered to double his salary, he still wasn’t coming. Nothing we can do about that. But I am proud of our effort. We didn’t assume anything, took our shots and I believe will end up with a solid coach who will embrace UCLA and build a program we all can be proud of and root for.”

According to USA Today, Wright makes around $3.9 million a year. Doubling his salary would have put him just under John Calipari, who struck it rich by dangling UCLA’s offer in front of Kentucky.

The article details just how close the Bruins were to hiring Rick Barnes and also what the issues were with Jamie Dixon. UCLA ended up with Mick Cronin, who left Cincinnati and signed a six-year, $24.5-million contract with the Bruins.

Report: UCLA AD never asked Tennessee for permission to talk to Rick Barnes

Rick Barnes

UCLA was pursuing Rick Barnes for its head coaching vacancy prior to the 64-year-old finalizing a new contract with Tennessee on Monday, and it does not sound like the Bruins went about things in the classiest fashion.

Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News Sentinel reports that UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero never reached out to Tennessee to ask for permission to speak with Barnes. UCLA reportedly offered Barnes a contract worth $5 million annually, which Tennessee countered on Monday to keep Barnes with the Vols.

Barnes is coming off a season in which he was named the Naismith Coach of the Year, so it’s possible he was never actually interested in UCLA and was just trying to capitalize on an opportunity.

UCLA is now stuck still looking for a coach, and they already passed on one candidate because of his hefty buyout. Between that and contacting Tennessee’s coach without getting permission first, UCLA’s search has gotten ugly in a hurry.

Report: Rick Barnes torn between Tennessee, UCLA

Rick Barnes

The mutual interest between Tennessee coach Rick Barnes and the UCLA Bruins appears real, but departing Knoxville is proving to be a bit difficult for him.

According to Chris Low of ESPN, Barnes is “wrestling” with the decision to stay at Tennessee or move to UCLA, and is expected to make a decision within the next day or so. The 64-year-old is very happy in Tennessee, but the chance to finish his career at UCLA with the chance to restore the program to prominence is very tempting to him.

UCLA would reportedly be willing to offer Barnes up to $5 million per year to move west. He has had some preliminary discussions about an improved deal at Tennessee as well.

Reporting about how sold Barnes was on UCLA is clearly overstated, as it sounds like the school is hoping he will take the job. He’ll have to decide if his comfort in eastern Tennessee outweighs the chance to rebuild the storied UCLA program.

Lon Kruger denies report linking him to UCLA job

Talks surrounding the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball job continuing to heat up, though one coach is distancing himself from the position.

On Sunday night, 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels reported that Tennessee’s Rick Barnes was a serious candidate for the position. Later in the evening, the Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch reported that Barnes and Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger are coaches of interest to UCLA. He says both interviewed for the job.

“I have not interviewed for the job at UCLA, nor have I had any contact with anyone from UCLA,” Kruger said in a statement.

Kruger is 66 and has been at Oklahoma since 2011. He has previously coached at UNLV, Illinois, Florida and Kansas State. Kruger makes about $3.2 million per year and has a nearly $4 million buyout.

Report: Rick Barnes is ‘serious candidate’ for UCLA job

Rick Barnes

A surprising name has emerged in UCLA’s search for a new head basketball coach.

According to Evan Daniels of 247 Sports, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is considered a “serious candidate” for the job that has been vacant since Steve Alford’s firing on Dec. 31.

Barnes just completed his fourth year at Tennessee, where he has built the Volunteers into a formidable program fresh off a 31-win season. Throughout his career, Barnes has been plagued by criticism of his perceived NCAA Tournament underachievement. That criticism arose again in 2019, as the Volunteers fell to third-seeded Purdue in the Sweet 16.

Barnes has a $5 million buyout after signing a new contract last year that makes him the second-highest paid coach in the SEC. It would be a somewhat surprising move for him to make in light of that, especially at 64 years old and fresh off making Tennessee a leading program.

UCLA’s search has been a long and winding road, and another leading candidate may be out on account of his buyout. Barnes’ buyout is lower, but not by that much.